About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Writing on the Wall by Gunnar Staalesen

Writing on the Wall by Gunnar Staalesen – Varg Veum is almost 50. He has been a private investigator in Bergen, Norway for a long time.

He is intrigued when a local member of the judiciary is found dead in a downtown hotel dressed in women’s lingerie. (In real life there was a former member of the Saskatchewan judiciary who gained unwanted attention partially because of young men joining him in the “boom-boom” room of another man’s basement.)

When Sigurd, the mother of Torild, hires him to find her 16 year old daughter who has not been home for a week he undertakes the job without great enthusiasm. Veum is far from certain that she needs to be found. Her parents have recently separated and Torild is rebellious.

Sigurd is saddened to realize that she can barely provide Veum with the names of any friends of Torild. She has been shut out of her daughter’s life.

Following up Sigurd’s information, Veum talks to a pair of Torild’s friends who are equally sullen and uncommunicative about Torild.

Veum identifies an arcade, Jimmy’s, as a teenage hangout where Torild has spent time with other teenagers.

His investigation shifts dramatically when Torild is found dead near a road on the edge of Bergen. The pretty young girl has been asphyxiated.

While the police take over the investigation Veum cannot let go the death of the girl and starts probing her activities in the last few months of her life.

What he finds made the book difficult to read for me and hard to describe with out spoiling the book. It is sufficient to say Bergen teenagers are being exploited. What has happened to Torild is all too credible.

Neither the teenagers nor adults come out well in the book.

The title will remain with me. Veum is told:

            Children are the writing on the wall for us ……

If I had not liked Veum, who has a nice self-deprecating personality, I am not sure I would have finished the book. The story was grim and the resolution inevitable.

Bergen in late winter matches the story. It is cold and damp and grey.

I expect to read another in the series in the hope not all of them have so bleak a plot. My next post will feature the statue of Varg Veum that has been put up in Bergen. (July 4/12)


  1. Bill - Thanks for this review. It sounds like a very compelling if grim and bleak story. I'll be interested in your post on the statue of Varg Veum. For now, I think I'll wait on this novel. I'd rather read it when I'm ready for a sad, bleak story...

  2. Is there anything about the story -- setting, plot, characters, dialogue, pacing, etc. -- that sets this above the average run of the mill mystery novel?

  3. Margot: Thanks for the comment. Do not read it if you are feeling depressed.

  4. Dr. Evangelicus: Thanks for the comment. The setting is interesting as I had not read a mystery set in Bergen. Nothing else put it above average for me.